Saturday, October 27, 2012

Plastered Pilgrim - Spiced Pumpkin Ale

I felt it appropriate to unveil the first of my new labels in the post for this beer.  I have created somewhat of a template which I hope to incorporate into future labels.

I have been doing some thinking about the best way to share my recipes/brewdays with everyone on the interwebs and decided it would be best to wait until I had the final product before me to do so.  In these and future posts I will give a short descriptive synopsis of the beer, followed by the recipe and sum it up with my thoughts.

The beer smells exactly like pumpkin pie, and not just the spices.  Call me crazy, but as I take deep sniff, I can pick out a the smell of pie crust.  The beer is a bronze-orange color, which at the time of tapping is a tad hazy (picture to come).  The pumpkin spices flood the mouth, followed by a moderate carbonation and creamy body.  The spicing is balanced, and the beer leans a tad towards the malty side.  The finish has a gentle tinge of alcohol warmth (most likely from the low level of bitterness).  This is a very palatable pumpkin ale, and one that could be consumed in session quantities.  The spicing does not overwhelm.

Plastered Pilgrim Recipe
Brewed On: September 15, 2012
Style: 21A - Spice, Herb, Vegetable Beer
Batch Size: 6 gallons
Efficiency: 82%
OG: 1.058
FG: 1.015
IBU: 18 (Rager)
ABV: 5.6% (forgot to change label, but close enough)
Yeast: WLP002 - English Ale Yeast - Rinsed from prior batch

Grist Mashed at 155 for an hour (sparging was a PITA with pumpkin!)
66% - Maris Otter - 10lbs
25% - Pumpkin Puree - 60 oz (4, 15 oz cans baked at 350° for an hour)
3% - Biscuit - 8oz
3% - Crystal 40 - 8oz
3% - Crystal 120 - 8oz

Hop Additions 
1oz of Willamette 4.8%AA - 60 minutes - 18 IBUs

Overall - This beer is pretty tasty.  I can't take full credit for the recipe as I modeled it largely off of the hit "Thuderstruck Pumpkin Ale" on HBT.  I think this may become a seasonal for me, but I will leave it up to friends and relatives to decide.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Craft Beer, Costly in Montgomery County, MD

I moved to Maryland a little over a year ago.  It is a great state and has a lot of things going for it, but the alcohol situation in Montgomery County is not one of them. 

There are four counties in Maryland which are controlled jurisdictions.  This basically means that all liquor, wine and beer is controlled by the county.  This control allows for some positive things such as the department generating enough revenue that it can donate $32.4 million in 2011 or $240 million over the past 10 years to the counties general fund.  But it also means another middle man in the chain.  And it provides two additional times for the consumer to get hit where it hurts, in their pockets.  There are a few different scenarios beer gets to market.  The first two below are standard, the third is Montgomery County:

  • Self Distribution - In some states, self distribution is allowed and provides the opportunity for the brewer to distributes its products directly to retailers (bars, bottle shops, liquor stores, and/or individuals)
  • Required Distributor - That state requires breweries to work with a distributor; a company which specializes in selling your beer.
  • Montgomery County - The county buys and sells all products from distributors.

There are varied rationale's on whether self distribution or a distributor is better for the brewery as far as opportunity costs and actual costs go.  Either way, the third option results in another mark up to the consumer.  The county controls which products can be sold and for what price.  Bottle shops are forced to take a drastic hit in profit or offer beers at a higher price than other counties in Maryland, but most of all higher than bordering state of Virginia... a craft beer oasis in comparison.  

Now we know the cause, but lets look at the effect. I have visited a few different bottle shops in my area, and I was actually really impressed with the selection.  The problem was the price.  I was finding six packs of California based breweries for $15-$18.  These sixers were sitting at room temperature and had some visible dust.  Green Flash and Firestone Walker make some great beers, but I just don't want to take a chance on their freshness, especially when I would be forking over $3 a bottle.  Depending on the shop you could have to pay $9-$10 for a six pack that would be $7-$8 in Virginia.

However, the price gouging doesn't stop a the sticker.  About a year ago, Montgomery County increased the sales tax on alcohol to 9%.  So not only would I potentially be paying 20%-30% more for my beer, I would then have to pay and addition 9%  in sales tax. Disappointed to say the least.  I am glad my hobby allows me to make flavor  beer on the cheap at home.

To end this discussion on a positive note, I will say that thankfully there were 4 grocery stores in the county which were grandfathered in.  These locations, of which I only am aware of one, somehow have reasonable prices and decent selection.  Maybe they get a volume discount, or maybe it is because they are the only grocery stores allowed to sell booze, but they do have reasonable prices.  All I know is I go to buy craft beer in the county, I will be willing forking over way to much cash, or going the Shoppers Food Warehouse in Germantown.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Brewery Update 10-7-2012

Here we are, into October already!  My Washington Nationals will be playing post season baseball this year, as well as the other local team - Baltimore Orioles, who I will also be rooting for!  Gotta keep up with my 2012-2013 Brew Schedule to ensure I won't go thirsty during the games!  Had a productive day in the Brewery yesterday accomplishing the following:

  • Kegged and added the pumpkin pie spices to the Pumpkin Spiced ale - Still working on some potential names, "Naughty Gourd" is at the top of the list.
  • Brewed the Northern English Brown ale - Need to reevaluate my boil off rates, it appears my preboil gravities are higher than expected, but then the post boil is lower than expected.
  • Sampled the RIS which was brewed back in July - Definitely will benefit from some aging time.  Initial notes are a bold bitterness that is partially from the 3 oz of 15.8% Alpha Acid Warrior hops, but also from the large amount of roasted barley.  The bitterness lends to a very brief "flavor" profile period and is quickly washed away by alcohol warmth.  May or may not be at an acceptable profile for xmas gifts, but thats what happens when it gets brewed in July instead of January!

(Pumpkin Ale Hydrometer Sample definitely has a orange glow)

Also have been working on some labels for the brewery.  Hoping to unveil a few of those soon in a separate post.  Stay tuned!